If I were to look back at my year of cooking, the simplest and most impressive thing I’ve mastered is Béchamel.
Béchamel is the most basic white sauce, requires Zero prior cooking experience and is 100% vegetarian (unlike most other French food). You see it most commonly in pasta, but you can pour it over anything! Also, It is super creamy and can make you lick your fingers.
The BBC authoritatively says that it was invented by Louis XIV’s steward Louis de Béchamel. Others claim that there are no historical records to verify that he was a gourmet, a cook, or the inventor of Béchamel Sauce. Duke d’Escars supposedly said:
That fellow Béchameil has all the luck! I was serving breast of chicken a la crème more than 20 years before he was born, but I have never had the chance of giving my name to even the most modest sauce.
There are many other theories of origin.
The Italian version is that it was introduced by the Italian chefs of Catherine de Medici, the Italian-born Queen of France. In 1533, Catherine was married to Henri, Duke of Orleans (the future King Henri II of France).
It was invented by Duke Philippe De Mornay in the 1600s. Béchamel Sauce is a variation of the basic white sauce of Mornay.
Chef Francois Pierre de la Varenne created Béchamel Sauce. He was a court chef during King Louis XIV’s reign, the same time that Béchamel was there. He is often cited as the founder of haute cuisine and also wrote Le Cuisinier Francois , which included Béchamel Sauce.
It is thought that he dedicated it to Béchamel as a compliment.
Now that I have sufficiently nerded up the joint, let’s get cooking.
Ingredients: Equal volumes of Butter, Milk and Flour*.
*a note on the flour – Maida tastes better, but the health conscious can sub in some atta instead.
For 2 hungry people, 3 tablespoons worth of each ingredient is enough.
1. Melt butter on low flame – do not burn
2. Add flour, stir till it looks like white breadcrumbs
3. Add milk in parts, keep stirring till all the flour dissolves.
4. Add salt and pepper. Keep on low flame – the longer you keep it, the thicker it gets.
The whole thing barely takes 10 minutes. Pour sauce over boiled pasta and sauteed vegetables.
The vegetables that go best with this are Eggplant/Brinjal , Capsicum, Tomato. You can chop these up, add salt and sautee them in olive oil.
Now that you have mastered the Béchamel, we’ll soon take a step up to Béarnaise* – thus planting our collective foot firmly in the realm of French haute cuisine!
* A sauce which is a lot like Mayonnaise.
If you get around to trying the sauce on your own, send me pics! Bon Appetit!